Italy has reduced its state sector budget deficit by more than 40 percent. But as Grace Pascoe reports there's a human cost - one acclaimed coma clinic is under threat as health.
In 2007, Maria's son Vincenzo fell into a coma after a motorbike accident. He was fortunate to be admitted to the Institute Sant'Anna, in southern Italy's Calabria. The clinic has helped 1,200 people emerge from comas over the last 18 years, more than anywhere else in the world. (SOUNDBITE) (Italian) PATIENTS MOTHER, MARIA SAYING: "It has been seven-and-a-half years that I've been close to my son, and he has shown good signs of recuperation - he doesn't talk, but when he sees me, his eyes follow me, he hugs me, he eats, he strokes my hair, he pushes my hair back, so for me these signs from my son are a joy." Sant'Anna's reawakening record is 20 percent better than the Italian average, Clinic Founder, Giovanni Pugliese... (SOUNDBITE) (Italian) CLINIC FOUNDER, GIOVANNI PUGLIESE, SAYING: "Keep in mind, that the awakening is not like you imagine it, or see on the TV, where at a certain point they wake up and tear every single wire off themselves, they get up, drink a cappuccino, no. It's like tiny baby steps, miniscule, very difficult to notice, that lasts for months and months, years." But the clinic is under threat. Italy's trying to curb the euro zone's second-largest public debt. And health spending, the largest item on most regional budgets, is bearing the brunt of government cuts. Sant'Anna's had to axe one in five jobs after funding was slashed. And while Italy has managed to reduce its budget deficit by 43% over the past year - it still has another 7 billion to go. FXPro's Simon Smith. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FXPRO, CHIEF ECONOMIST, SIMON SMITH, SAYING: "What we need to see are improvements to what is called the structural budget deficit irrespective of where the economy is. And that always involves structural reforms that are very hard to implement, especially when you have a sort of revolving system of government and coalitions implementing structural reforms that are going to have a long term impact and don't necessarily win you votes" Losing Sant'Anna certainly won't win any votes in Calabria. It's plight just one example of how painful reform can be.